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Jun 20, 2009



It's a wonderful book and we had a great time celebrating its release!


I love this type of work! A wonderful kiwi woman named Ruth Zanker did some similar work for her dissertation, except it was on NZ television production. Fascinating stuff. Wish we would see more behind the scenes docos on these organizations and their methods. Thomas? There's lots of grant money coming. I would help!


Congrats by the way on this accomplishment!


Thank you all so much. And Julian, you're very kind to make that comparison. Huge thank you also to Dan Hunter, Naomi Allen, and the rest of the State of Play crew for the book party, and thanks to the Cornell U Press as well.


What's a new book without a book tour. Naturally, Thomas' first stop on the tour was a venue inside Second Life. Check out what Thomas had to say in his Metanomics interview.

Here was just one of his many interesting insights:

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Toward the end of your book, you talk about that there was an often-heard quote around Linden Lab, “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” And, in a footnote, I don’t just point this out to demonstrate that I read the footnotes to books, but I thought this was a really interesting footnote. You point out, first, that the real quote from Chairman Mao is, “Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend.” But then you go on to say, quote, “There are multiple ironies in Linden Lab’s invocation of the phrase, given its original use, but I do not discuss them here.” So my question, Thomas, is: Will you discuss them here?

THOMAS MALABY: Oh, sure, I guess. Well, on the one hand, this is a quote from Mao so it’s coming from a particular version of communism, a particular era where there was certainly an enormous commitment to top-down planning and control that was married to a celebration of the common celebration of the proletariat, in that case, the peasant; in the Chinese case, the rural.

So it was a very, very different context than Linden Lab. Linden Lab is not trying to plan and dictate an economy with the same confidence and self-acknowledgment and awareness as a Marxist kind of effort, but, at the same time, they were. I mean the deep contradiction, the deep irony of Linden Lab is that they were constantly talking about how they shouldn’t govern Second Life. They were constantly trying to get their hands out of it, but yet they couldn’t deny the practical fact that they had access under the hood that users did not. In the same way Philip Rosedale would frequently say, “In an ideal world, I wouldn’t exist.” Right? He hoped that they could tap into the wisdom of their own crowd, to such an efficient degree finding just the right mechanism, that he wouldn’t have to make any decisions or, at least, so he claimed.

But, of course, that couldn’t happen. There was no question that he exerted enormous influence over what people thought was important or what projects people pursued, just by the favor of his interest. So for them to frequently say, “Let a thousand flowers bloom,” is ironic because, on the one hand, yes, they are saying, “Everyone do whatever you want,” but, at the same time, they can never get away from the fact that they have more control than they claim.

And that leads, to me, an enormously important point, which is, and a point just about Linden Lab, but about very similar kinds of companies, Google, all these companies that are architecting are increasingly our digital lives. And that is that we have an emerging social distinction between the users and those who are the creators.

Even users in Second Life, who are told that they have all the agency they would ever need, that they have all the tools, access to tools, to make whatever they want to make, they yet do not have access under the hood in the same way that Linden Lab does. Of course, some things are changing with the attempts to kind of open it up. But this is a general problem, an issue with technology today. Most obviously, Linden Lab is engaging in public policy in some of its decisions about the architecture of Second Life and its policies. Google is engaging in public policy with some of the decisions it makes about its architecture.

For us not to zero in on this distinction between users who only have access to the technology at a certain level and the creators who are under no political accountability demands, who have all that kind of access and make those decisions, this seems to me to be an urgent issue, and Linden Lab is just one way to demonstrate it.


What an interesting connection. "Let a thousand flowers bloom." The people who make worlds are truly their sovereigns. Yet they are governed by no law save the law of the market.

I sense a constitutional moment is coming on. Maybe we should all sit down and sketch out a Constitution. We already have the Bill of Rights, thanks to Raph! We just need the articles of day to day governance and legal authority that must necessarily precede it.

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